How Changing my Mindset is Changing my Life (and my motherhood)
It was nearing five pm. Gemma was extra clingy and I was feeling pretty exhausted. The panic started to set in- "Where in the world is my husband? He said he was going to work out quickly and be home. Doesn't that mean he should be home by now?" The negative mindset slid in pretty quickly. I started feeling sorry for myself.
"I've had a long day, during nap time I can't even relax because I have to work, and yet I seem to have gotten nothing done. My to do list is endless. The house could use picked up. We have so much less stuff than we used to, but still there's a mess after a busy day. I'm so done with today"
(by the way...my husband is amazing and he was not taking an extra long time...I was being dramatic)
I quickly put myself in a pretty bad mood that I blamed on Gemma and my husband when it was really my fault.
The next day, after reflecting on this spiral downward that seems to happen often, I realized how unwarranted it truly was. I get to work from home and be home all day with my extra sweet baby, which is the EXACT thing I want to be doing. Yes, it's tiring, but how in the world did I get so ungrateful about the very thing I prayed for and hoped would be able to happen? Seriously?!
I didn't necessarily make this revelation on my own. I was listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis and her words helped me along in realizing my negative mindset.
However, I did realize I was being dramatic pretty much as soon as my husband got home. I just didn't really know what to do about it. "I'm always like this," I thought. "It's just me- I get anxious, and I get tired after a long day, what am I going to do about it? This is just how motherhood is."
This is not "just how motherhood is."
This is how our culture has made motherhood out to be. Granted, I have one baby. I don't know what it's like to have multiple or what it's like to have a toddler or a teenager or anything more than a 7 month old. Still, I stand by my belief that motherhood is not supposed to be overwhelming and miserable. Yes, it's busy...it's incredibly hard and I know it will only get harder. But miserable and joy sucking? I don't think so.
When my mindset is in the right place, I absolutely love being a mom. It feels like the most joyful thing I could possibly do. It's hard, of course, but it's the really good kind of hard. The kind that grows you and changes you and, sure, tires you out, but all because you've got your heart walking around outside of you in the form of a tiny human. It's the best.
So why do I often find myself complaining about little, insignificant things, so much so that I end up bringing myself into a terrible mood I can't snap out of?
It's because I'm conditioned to complain about motherhood.
I'm not sure how I got here. Maybe it's because the culture around me has made me expect that motherhood should be overwhelming and a little bit miserable. The things people say to you when you're pregnant, ugh. "Get ready to never sleep again! Say goodbye to your sweet, sweet freedom! Just expect to be tired for years." Their "advice" can leave a mama-to-be wondering why in the world anyone, including herself, would have children.
We go into this motherhood thing with ominous warnings. And then, when the hard stuff comes from pretty much day one, we start to feel sorry for ourselves for the things we've said goodbye to instead of feeling grateful for the sweet little life we are now in charge of.
There really could be a million little things that go into why so many mothers are unhappy. I have found that the times when I find myself discontent instead of full of joy are pretty much all about my mindset.
What I realized is that about 99% of my discontentment and negativity has to do with me.
It's my fault when I find myself full of negativity because of the story I'm telling myself, about myself. I tell myself I'm not enough. And then I get myself thinking that I don't have enough. I tell myself that if my day wasn't filled with exhausting things like a wild, crawling baby and work, I'd be less tired and able to get more done. I tell myself these stories, and when I reflect on them, I realize they are pretty ridiculous and untrue.
I started to focus on gratefulness, instead. Since this cranky day last week and the revelation I had after it, I've been working to change my mindset.
When Gemma gets tired or fussy, instead of letting myself go into that downward spiral of anxiousness and discontentment and feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself how wonderful the miracle of motherhood is. I get myself into the present moment instead of worrying about what I have to do next. I sit with her and play with her. Or I hold her and nurse her. I listen to what she needs and I serve her the way a mother is called to, and I remind myself how grateful I am to do it. Is there really something I'd like to be doing instead? This is it. This is the ultimate thing that I am called to right now.
As I remind myself to be grateful and present, it's amazing how the discontentment, anxiousness, and downright grumpiness disappears.
If I don't consciously remind myself to stay grateful and content with what I have, it's amazing how fast it will return.
Friend, whether you're a mama or not, I want you to know that this practice of gratefulness and presence is changing me. It's only been just over a week, but I'm so determined to keep it up. I believe it can change you, too.
Get outside of your own head.
Look at your life as an outsider, or as yourself five years ago. What are the good things you have that you couldn't have ever imagined? Be grateful for those things- they are good and perfect gifts from God. It hurts my heart how many times I find myself ungrateful when there are beautiful things filling my life.
I'm not saying circumstances and motherhood aren't hard. I know that you might be fighting really hard battles that I can't even imagine. I know that multiple kids and older kids bring challenges that I don't know about. I'm not saying you have to seize every single moment with your babes and never feel overwhelmed or tired or grumpy.
I am saying that choosing gratefulness and contentment causes us to focus on the good instead of the hard. Doing so has made me exponentially happier.
So, how can you change your mindset and your life if you're finding yourself unhappy, day after day?
Declutter your mind.
Pay attention to your thoughts. Are you constantly looking ahead to what you have to get done, feeling anxious or ungrateful? Catch yourself in those moments and literally count your blessings. List what you're grateful for in the moment, right then and there, and then get a notebook out each night or morning and actually write those things down. Specific things. Every day. Crowd the negative thoughts out with gratefulness. And then get yourself into the present moment, and stay there.
These are the steps I'm taking that are truly making a difference in changing my mindset.
This is the real reason I'm finding myself smiling more.
It takes daily, sometimes hourly reminders to focus on the good. Though it takes work to kick negativity out of my thoughts, it works, and it has brought so much more joy to my everyday.
I hesitated to write about this because I'm such a rookie. I still get overwhelmed which leads to anxiousness and complaining. But it happens so much less, and when it does, I try hard to catch myself and turn it around. This is a process- and I couldn't stop myself from posting about it because it is really, so life changing for me, and I believe it can be for you, too.
I believe that motherhood should be joyful. I don't want to miss the chance to live that out. I don't want to miss out on an abundant, fulfilled life because I wasted my days away forgetting to be grateful and focusing on what I don't have.
Feel like your mind is cluttered, too? I elaborate on this and more ways I'm working to change my mindset and declutter my life in my free minimalist resource, "Your Minimalist Life Startup Guide."
Want a reminder to hang in your home?